Revealed: Southland wetlands are vanishing

Forest & Bird is calling for better protection of New Zealand's wetlands.

The conservation group has released aerial images that show how Southland wetlands have disappeared over the past decade as they've been drained to make way for farming.

But in Port Waikato a farmer is regenerating the wetlands on his property, and says the Government needs to get involved to help farmers turn back the clock on the health of their land.

Stu Muir is the fifth generation of his family to farm this land, and considers himself a guardian of the wetlands.

"When you live on the land it's up to you to make sure it's improved," he told Newshub. "I love the river, I love all those things you do as kids - whitebaiting, eeling, duck shooting."

Helped by funding from the Waikato River Authority, Mr Muir has planted more than 50,000 trees and plants and opened up 3km of stream that was previously choked - bringing back an array of wildlife.

"It was blocked, it was dead, the willows, pampas, glyceria had completely nailed it."

Unfortunately not everyone's like Mr Muir, and many wetlands around New Zealand are vanishing.

Aerial images released by Forest & Bird show the disappearance of wetlands in Southland on private land between 2007 and 2014, drained to make way for productive use

"We're in real danger of losing these special places if we don't take action," says freshwater spokesperson Annabeth Cohen.

Wetlands improve water quality by acting as a filter. They also reduce the impact of flooding by absorbing heavy rain, and act as a home to many species of endangered birds and fish.

Forest & Bird is calling on the Environment Minister to set a goal for councils to at least double the wetlands in their regions.

"That probably is quite a big ask," says Minister David Parker. "I think immediately we should stop further wetlands being degraded, and you will see stronger rules being promoted to do just that inside the next year."

"If people want to see things improve, the Government shouldn't just be tokenistic about it on both sides," says Mr Muir. "They need to put in some funding to help councils to actually provide the funds for people to do this."

He says as guardians of the land, most farmers want to see their land improve.